Genital Herpes Issues and Your Family
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD),
therefore, people with genital herpes generally do not transmit the infection to their children. However, although
rare, it is possible to spread the genital herpes virus without sexual contact. To follow are some facts about
herpes simplex you should know, along with steps you can take to prevent the transmission of the herpes virus to
Protecting Your Family
By being responsible about your personal hygiene and being careful during outbreaks the risk of
transmitting the herpes virus to your children is very low. However, there are some general things you can do to
prevent spreading the herpes virus.
Preventing the spread of Herpes Simplex Virus-1 (HSV-1)
- It may be wise to avoid sharing a drinking cup, cigarette, or lipstick if
you have a cold sore.
- Avoid kissing your infant or child if you have a cold sore.
Preventing the spread of Herpes Simplex Virus-2 (HSV-2)
- It may be wise to avoid sharing bath towels if you have genital herpes
symptoms. Washing towels, underwear, and other intimate articles with regular soap or detergent will
effectively kill the herpes virus. No special antiviral disinfectants are necessary.
- Avoid touching herpes sores or other physical signs of genital herpes and
be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after contact with the physical genital herpes lesions.
Most often reasonable personal hygiene is all that is necessary to protect your
family from the herpes virus.
Special Precautions for Newborns
Serious and widespread infection can occur if a newborn is infected with the herpes virus, so it is
important to be cautious about the spread of the herpes virus to a newborn. By the time infants are 6 months old,
their immune systems are better able to cope with exposure to the herpes virus.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, women with active herpes
symptoms should wash their hands before and after caring for their infants. Women who have cold sores should
wear a disposable surgical mask during handling of their newborn infant until the herpes lesions have crusted
and dried. Kissing or nuzzling of the infant should be avoided until the oral lesions have cleared. Active
herpes lesions on other sites of the body should be covered while handling a baby. If you plan on breastfeeding,
please see your doctor.
It's important to realize that having genital herpes does not mean you can't
Facts About Genital Herpes
The herpes virus cannot be spread through the air like the common cold. Direct contact in a warm and
moist environment is necessary for transmission. Transmission of the herpes virus occurs when a contagious area
comes into contact with a mucous membrane such as the mouth or genitals or a crack in the skin. There are two types
of herpes viruses that can cause herpes, Herpes Simplex Virus-1 (HSV-1) and Herpes Simplex Virus-2
Herpes Simplex Virus-1 (HSV-1)
Herpes Simplex Virus-1 (HSV-1) mainly causes oral herpes. Symptoms of HSV-1, or type 1 herpes, may
include cold sores on the face and mouth. Many type 1 herpes virus infections occur during childhood when an infant
or child is kissed by a relative or friend who has active type 1, or oral herpes (cold sores). This is
common—about 50% to 80% of adults in the United States have type 1 herpes. The virus is also present
in the saliva of people with oral herpes.
Herpes Simplex Virus-2 (HSV-2)
Herpes Simplex Virus-2 (HSV-2) causes the majority of genital herpes cases. Genital herpes is
usually transmitted sexually. Other types of transmission are possible, but they are unusual. Using normal personal
hygiene such as washing your hands after you touch a herpes sore will help prevent the transmission of genital
herpes to your children.
Although HSV-1 causes the majority of oral herpes cases (cold sores) and HSV-2
causes the majority of genital herpes cases, both of these viruses can cause oral herpes, genital herpes, or
both. Most type 1 genital herpes cases are caused by unprotected oral sex. In adults, the potential for type 1
genital herpes may be increasing because oral sex is more common and protection (e.g., latex barriers) is rarely
Outbreaks of type 1 genital herpes generally recur less frequently than
outbreaks of type 2 genital herpes. In the United States, about 30% of genital herpes cases are caused by type 1
Initial and Recurrent Genital Herpes Outbreaks